Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 MARCH 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED E ven while hurt feel- ings mean little in the big business of college football these days, feeling sorry for Phil Jurkovec is still tempting. That's be- cause the sophomore Irish quarterback invested so much into Notre Dame, yet left the program with very little in return. News broke in January that Jurkovec had entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal and was leaving Notre Dame. Less than two weeks later, Jurk- ovec landed at Boston Col- lege, where he'll have three years of eligibility remain- ing, but might have to sit out and burn one of those in 2020 because of NCAA transfer rules. Rated by Rivals as a four- star prospect and the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class, Jurkovec leaves a disappointed Irish fan base wondering what one of the more highly prominent signal-caller recruits during the 10- year era of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly might have someday looked like had he bided one more year behind starter Ian Book. Through the air and on the ground, Jurkovec accounted for almost 6.5 miles of total offense and 114 touch- downs in only 34 games at Pine Richland High School, just outside of Pittsburgh. Pledging his allegiance to Notre Dame in May 2016 as a high school sophomore, Jurkovec was the first player to commit from the class of 2018 and became active and instru- mental in bolstering this recruiting class, and eventually helping to hold it together. Remember, a few months after Jurkovec's verbal pledge, Notre Dame went 4-8 in 2016, but suffered few recruiting hiccups in no small part because of the adhesive work Jurkovec did behind the scenes. Even off the four-win season and while Kelly purged and rebuilt nearly his entire staff of assistant coaches, Rivals still ranked Notre Dame's 27-player haul in 2018 as the No. 11 recruiting class in the country. And, upon Jurkovec signing his National Letter of Intent in Decem- ber 2017, Kelly called his prep prod- igy, "somebody that I could put up against any quarterback that I've ever seen." Irish recruiting coordinator Brian Polian tried to tamp down the ra- bid excitement of Jurkovec's arrival by warning many overly exuberant Irish fans that player development doesn't happen overnight, especially at quarterback. "We need to allow for that learn- ing curve and that process before we start anointing guys as saviors," said Polian, whose words proved prophetic. And while we likely won't ever uncover all the reasons that led to Jurkovec's transfer, perhaps stag- nated development or minimal op- portunities to learn and grow were contributing factors. "If I felt like playing Phil for five plays, four plays, would make us a better football team," Kelly explained in October after the embarrassing Michi- gan loss, "I would do it in a second." Not exactly a glowing endorsement from a coach who previously classified Jurkovec "the best quarter- back in the country." Clearly the return of Book for a fifth year in 2020 and his third season as the starter had to play a part into Jurkovec's decision to leave. And perhaps another contributing factor was a lack of opportunity for Jurkovec to play during a 2019 season that provided plenty of chances for him to do so. Notre Dame finished fifth in the country this past sea- son with a plus-18 scoring margin. It had seven wins by 21 points or more, five by at least 31 points and two by 52 points. Yet, through all the blow- outs, Jurkovec appeared in only six games this season and threw merely 16 passes. And while the Irish won their final five games of the season by an aver- age of 28.2 points, Jurkovec seldom played during that stretch, complet- ing three passes in three attempts while Notre Dame hardly broke a sweat in these games. And maybe that's the bad news. The good news is that with a grow- ing number of transferring quarter- backs finding quick success at their second stops, this move might work out well for all parties involved. Whatever the future holds for Phil Jurkovec, Notre Dame and its fan base owe him nothing but sincere ap- preciation, well wishes, and a heart- felt thank you for his two years as a quarterback here and his two years of toil as a recruiting coordinator be- fore that. ✦ Despite Transfer, Phil Jurkovec Deserves Thanks UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Now at Boston College, Jurkovec was the first player to commit to Notre Dame in the class of 2018. His commitment helped the Fighting Irish to a No. 11-ranked class that year, despite the program's 4-8 record and wholesale coaching staff changes following the 2016 season. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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